Blessed is the fleet

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 09:53 17/07/2014
Nan Ward
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
REMEMBERED: Nelson’s Nan Ward will throw a wreath into the sea in memory of people who have been lost at sea.

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The annual Blessing of the Fleet starts on Friday night with a 30-minute firework display.

The event serves as both a memorial service for those who have been lost at sea, and as a blessing for the coming year for the many people from the region who work at sea.

Hundreds of people line the Sunderland Marine Pier while fishing boats and other vessels gather offshore for the moving ceremony, which ends with a release of doves.

The boats motor past after the ceremony and there is a "catch of the day" auction and demonstrations then take place on the water.

The Seafarers Memorial Trust organises the blessing which is now in its 15th year. "We must be doing something right," trust chairman Mike Smith says.

Other fishing towns and cities around the country have adapted their own blessings, but Nelson's harbour, which allows fishing boats to gather safely so close to shore, makes Nelson's event special, Mike says.

Nelson is the largest fishing port in Australasia with 200,000 ton of fish landed a year. Mike says a statistic he has seen quoted that is that 26 per cent of the region's work force is involved with the fishing industry in one some way.

This year's blessing will take the same form as previous years. Friday night's firework display starts at 6.30pm and involves a 15-minute firework extravaganza followed by a 15-minute flare display.

The fireworks will be set off on a barge in the harbour, and it can be seen from Atawhai to Tahunanui. The fireworks will go ahead rain or shine.

Saturday's blessing depends on weather. The ceremony starts at 12.30pm and will be followed by a display from the Coastguard and the tugs.

Saturday's Nelson Mail will have a programme for the event.

The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter will not be involved this year.

The Rotary Club of Nelson will be serving scallops and fish for $3 a serve.

Mike says the service is poignant and emotional, and that is why organisers have not changed the format.

"It really gets to you."

He thanked Talley's and other sponsors for their generosity.

A decision will be made at 9am on Saturday if poor weather means the event should be cancelled. The decision will be broadcast on More FM.

  • The Blessing of The Fleet. Sunderland Marine Pier, Wakefield Quay. Ceremony starts, 12.30pm.

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- The Nelson Mail

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